Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

MMMM

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Love to hate.

It’s funny, I can remember a good portion of my life growing up knowing the “Olsen twins”. From Full House, to their dorky twins movie series, to a few tween movies before vanishing off the face of the planet. We’re talking years and years, they are really famous, or at least used to be. Then their little sister, Elizabeth pops up out of nowhere and blows them out of the water. I’ve now seen Elizabeth in most of her films, and she is very talented. More talented than Mary Kate and Ashley could ever hope to be. From Silent House, her first real movie, on. Martha Marcy May Marlene showed up early on in her career, and though I heard of it, never really had a true desire to see it. Stupid decision on my part, given my love for psychological thrillers, so I gave it a whirl – and I was blown away.

Now, this film is about Martha, a woman who just spent two full years in a cult for whatever reason. In the beginning of the film, Martha flees from them and takes comfort at her sister’s home, but two years of living in a seemingly violent and abusive cult has changed her in so many ways. Some disturbing. Her line of thinking is full of paranoia and flashbacks of the past that she continually tries to forget. Throughout the film, the flashbacks tell you a story that you won’t believe.

I couldn’t look away, ladies and gentlemen, I couldn’t. I was so sucked into this movie it’s hard to even explain. In the simplest of explanations, the film revolts you, disturbs you, and sickens you until you can’t bare it anymore, but not in the way that you think.  No, this film is all about the power of the mind, and how it can act after being severely messed with. I mean it, I’ve never seen such a powerful movie that dealt with realistic brainwashing and the disastrous effect it can have on the people around you. It’s insane, because they did it efficiently and brilliantly. The director had one goal for the audience: connect with Martha; see things through her eyes; feel her pain as she is abused; feel what it’s like to be messed with to the point of no return; feel the real sensation of terrifying paranoia; experience the unknown. You want a real horror film, fans of that genre? Look no further, because there’s not a movie that’s more terrifying than the idea that this film presents.

Cults are a hard thing to get right without seeming too tacky. You got those huggers and people handing out flowers, luring you into a place that ends up taking all your money. You know? Like Scientology. Usually, you got murderous cults in the media, and it’s just been done so often that it’s turned into something cliché. When I think of cults, real cults, I do think of them as these organizations made to falsify love for their own benefit, gaining your trust and turning something that should be protective into something scarring. I believe they would teach the wrong things, and contain just a hint of insanity. You gotta be to create something so terrible. This film does that really well, I have to give it props, because it once again heightens my fear of these places and organizations that really do exist.

Again, Olsen is a great actress, but this just confirms it. How do you play a character that’s been scarred to the point of behavior modification? Behavior modification that is unfixable and unreachable. That is really hard material, because her character goes from real happiness, to fake happiness, to confusion, to shock, to scared, to scarred, to paranoid, to…just imagine all of the emotions you could face in a similar situation. There’s a lot of ground to cover for an actor, I mean…that’s range. Elizabeth Olsen took charge and made that role her own, and I cannot believe how well she did it, I applaud her.

The Good:

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a chillingly realistic and terrifying psychological thriller that introduces a fresh path into the mind of a truly terrified individual that just went through an ordeal most of us will never face, and Elizabeth Olsen took that role and played it brilliantly. I often complain about horror films not actually being scary, and even though this is not a horror film, the idea behind it all is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen, because this type of thing could actually happen.

The Bad:

My main negative things to say about this film are mostly just personal opinion. Firstly, I felt the film had really great moments, but a lot was slow, because it was building tension. For the most part, I loved that tension, but it did start to feel longer than it was, which can be an issue. I also didn’t understand the point of the film. No one had any real goals, and that points to a lack of plot, which I often complain about. Martha says repeatedly that she has no real plans for the future too. I know it’s a character film that is meant for the audience to walk in her shoes, and it does a great job at that, but for the most part, that’s not what I prefer in a movie.

Memorable Quote:

Patrick: You know that death is the most beautiful part of life, right? Death is beautiful because we all fear death. And fear is the most amazing emotion of all because it creates complete awareness. It brings you to now, and it makes you truly present. And when you’re truly present, that’s nirvana. That’s pure love. So death is pure love. (I so wanted to choke this guy out at this point and say, “Hey buddy, how’s this for love, you lunatic?”)

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3 thoughts on “Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

  1. I love this movie. And yes, Elizabeth Olsen is phenomenal. For me, the lack of a plot worked wonderfully. It’s definitely a “slice of life” type of movie. I do think everyone had goals, though. Lucy wanted desperately to cure her sister and Marlene wanted to be cured, but is finding it impossible. Patrick wants to get her back into the fold. The question is does anyone achieve any of these?

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